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Archive for November 7th, 2011


SEGA’s October Noms

Last month, we shared some of the favorite meals we had while traveling. You guys seemed to enjoy it, so we’re back!

I already shared some of my meals in the New York Comic Con blog — including my favorite thing ever, Junior’s cheesecake. But there were some more noms to be had. Unfortunately, because of the travel, I wasn’t present for most of the dessert Fridays in the office, so there aren’t any photos of that.

Austin, TX

I was honored to be asked to speak at GDC Online in Austin, TX last month. There’s lots of great food and great people in Austin, and it’s always fun to visit.

casino el camino

One of the great places I went was Casino el Camino — a dive bar with rockin’ burgers. I met my friend (and fellow panelist) Stan from Astro Gaming there, and we had burgers and wings for lunch. YUM.

salt lick bbq

I was also super-excited to see my friend Marj again. Marj used to be our web producer here at SEGA, so if you’ve enjoyed a SEGA website in the past few years, you probably have Marj to thank for that. She also appeared in our Free Stuff Friday videos a few times  (you can see her in that video at 0:49, standing next to Aaron). Marj lives in Austin now, and she took me to Salt Lick BBQ — this amazing place just outside of Austin. As you walk in, you’re greeted by the BBQ pit. I am sorry that the photo can’t capture the smell coming off this thing, because it was amazing.

salt lick bbq

We had the family-style meal, which includes this plate of mixed grilled meats and several sides like potatoes, bread, beans, and cole slaw. So good, but an epic amount of food.

Gordough's Donuts

While I was there, Marj also took me to Gourdough’s, which is a food truck that makes fresh donuts and tops them with crazy stuff and, if you want, ice cream. These are the donuts we got — mine had brown sugar and cooked bananas on it. It was creative and delicious.


Venice, CA

A couple weeks later, I was in Venice Beach for the Sonic Generations of Skate event. After the event, I grabbed some food and drink with a friend. Whenever I see anything crazy on the menu, I always have the urge to order it. And that’s what happened to me. I saw this thing on the menu and had to have it.

Bacon-Wrapped, Cream Cheese, Jalapeno Dog

What you are witnessing is a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, nestled in a bun that has cream cheese on it, and chopped jalapenos and onions on top of it. See what I mean? Craziest thing on the menu. I had to order it. And it was delicious.

Duck Burgers

We also had duck burgers. Not quite as strange as the hot dog, but strange enough that we felt compelled to order them. They were also really good. (And yes, we made duck jokes all night.)

The Great Candy Corn Debate

While not technically something we ate while traveling, there is something else food-related that you might be interested in. Kate and I were recently invited to be on the Food Addicts podcast with our friends from SEGA Addicts. Listen in as Kate and I defend the existence of candy corn, Kate teaches us all how to make Reese’s goggles, and I discuss my aversion to artificially fruit flavored things.

That was October!


See Sonic in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

In just a few weeks, Sonic will be flying down the streets of New York City in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade! This is actually Sonic’s second time in the parade — he was the first video game character to be in the parade back in 1993, and now he’s back for his 20th anniversary. Over the past 20 years, Sonic has evolved as one of gaming’s greatest icons, with his blue body and unforgettable spikes being recognized worldwide as a symbol of speed, adventure and fun.

Macy's Poster

On Thanksgiving, the Sonic balloon will sky rocket into the atmosphere with massive blue spikes, his signature white gloves and red shoes, shining in the sun. For his parade return, Sonic will measure approximately 48-feet tall, 60-feet long, and 26-feet wide, solidifying his presence, once again, as a historic character in the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade line-up.

The 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs across the United States on NBC-TV, Thursday, November 24, 2011 from 9:00 am – Noon, in all time zones.

Sneak Peek at the Sonic Balloon

The balloons were taken for a test flight this past weekend at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, and Marcella, our Director of Marketing, was there to see it! She snapped these photos of the balloon, and confirmed that it looks amazing.

Sonic Balloon Test Flight

Sonic Balloon Test Flight

Sonic Balloon Test Flight

Sonic Balloon Test Flight

We’ve got more photos of the balloon on our Flickr. You can really get a sense of how gigantic the balloon is when you see all the people below holding on to the ropes. It looks great, and I’m so excited to see it in person. Which brings me to…

See Us In the Parade!

While most of the balloon handlers helping us with the Sonic balloon will be volunteers and other non-employees, there are a few of us headed to New York City this Thanksgiving to be balloon handlers in the parade. This year, Thanksgiving falls on my birthday, and I can’t think of a more fun way to spend it than being in the Macy’s parade! Not sure how well you’ll be able to see us, but maybe you’ll get a glimpse of me and a few other SEGA folks when you see the Sonic balloon on TV. Of course, if you’re in NYC and on the parade route, you might see us as we walk by with the Sonic balloon. If you see us, shout out a hey!

We’ll try to take some behind the scenes photos to show you after the parade, but because there are absolutely no cameras or cell phones allowed for balloon handlers on the parade route (and we’ll literally have our hands full, anyway) there will be no live tweeting, blogging, Facebooking, etc from the parade route.

We’re super excited, and hope you are too!


Shinobi Retrospective: Part I

Shinobi - Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Shinobi, Swinging Swords Like—

In which Joe Musashi saves hostages and teaches a generation the art of jumping with great precision.

So — let’s talk about SEGA’s history. Let’s talk about arcade games.

SEGA was, first and foremost, a company bred in the arcades, with a history that dates back a mind-boggling seventy years, to 1940 (when they made coin-operated games for servicemen overseas). These were mostly “coin operated amusements,” arcades pre-electronics — all of that is just the past, of course, and the past is prelude: the SEGA that I grew up with made its name in the 1980s with games coaxed masterfully from games like Hang-On and After Burner.

Talk to anyone who played games in the 1980s – games were hard then. I know everyone says this — us increasingly old gamers, with kids all over our lawns, who remember putting quarters into machines in dark rooms that smelled like cola and sweat — but it’s important to understand. This was for a reason: these early games were bred in the arcade, where games had to balance being fun and being challenging. If they were too easy the games didn’t collect enough quarters; if they weren’t fun, people didn’t play.

Enter Shinobi: In 1987 SEGA released this side-scrolling platformer. It stood out for two reasons:

1. It had ninjas.
2. It was really, really hard

Built for SEGA’s “System 16” arcade board, the original game had bright graphics, smooth animation, and a killer soundtrack. Controlling a ninja in a video game is about, you know, feeling like a ninja — which means whatever the difficulty, having controls precise enough to make you feel like you are making skill-based decisions as you fight off waves of terrorists, helicopters, and advancing walls made out of some sort of cybernetic spinning Shiva thing.

Some other fun facts from the original game:

  • The name, while partially derived from famous historical samurai Miyamoto Musashi, also comes from a train station in the Kanagawa prefecture of Japan called “Musashi Shinjo”. Nakahara, the mastermind of Zeed, is named after “Musashi Nakahara”, a station located near Musashi Shinjo.
  • The arcade version of Shinobi was originally designed to have a shuriken-shaped controller. This controller lent itself perfectly to the game’s bonus rounds, but it wasn’t well-suited for the side-scrolling stages and was changed to a standard joystick.
  • The game was ported first to the Master System in 1988, and then to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989.
  • It’s worth noting that Nintendo’s own iconic ninja franchise, Ninja Gaiden, actually arrived after Shinobi. I’m just going to throw this out there, shuriken-style, for the record.

Shinobi (Arcade)

I had the Master System version of the game, and it was hard – I recall beating it once, maybe twice, and there were no cheat codes (or if there were, I never learned them). I got pretty good at it – but when I ventured to try the arcade version, it absolutely defeated me. For one thing, the arcade version subscribes to the “we take your money” theory of gaming – one hit and you died. No life bars for you, young ninja!

I finally played further into the arcade version thanks to the Ultimate Genesis Collection – save points and unlimited virtual quarters helped a lot. It’s as demanding a platformer as has ever been made and the emotional payoff for fighting through a difficult series of enemies and jumps is pretty huge.

Shinobi - Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

So why this discussion of arcades and platforming and difficulty? I’ve been playing the new Shinobi — oh yeah there’s a new Shinobi coming out did we tell you?— and it draws from all of these things. There’s a ton of throwback nods to old-school Shinobi goodness, including the break-your-controller difficulty of the bonus stages (tossing ninja stars at ninjas as they do ninja flips at your ninja, ninja-like), as well as the all-time classic, ‘bald-guys-with-pony-tails who throw some sort of boomerang thing at you.’ Just like in Feudal Japan.

More than anything – the new Shinobi is incredibly challenging. You can play it on its more “toned-down” settings, which is fun for sure — but you can also approach it at that ninja-level of difficulty which demands perfection. In my opinion, it speaks not just to my own sense of nostalgia, but to arcade history – that balance of fun & difficulty which is why a generation of us grew up as gamers in the first place.

Stay Ninja-tuned — there is more to come this week!


Retrospective: Part II


Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games – TV Commercials

Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is just around the corner for Wii players! To help get you excited, here are the TV commercials we’ll be showing for the game — one with a Sonic ending, and one with a Mario ending. Enjoy!

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